He'll be best remembered as a Celtic, the team he played for for the finalseven years of his 14-season NBA career. In Boston, Dennis Johnson—who diedlast week of an apparent heart attack at age 52—depended mainly on his moxie,his mental toughness, his court awareness. He was, in a word, cagey.
But there was atime when the 6'4", freckle-faced guard relied on his athleticism. AtPepperdine, Johnson was so explosive that he—not the Waves' 6'10"center—jumped the opening tip. After one season of harassing guards (andforwards and centers) in the West Coast Conference, he applied for the 1976 NBAdraft as a hardship candidate. (In Johnson's case, the hardship was legit. Theninth of 16 kids growing up in Compton, he worked for a year and a half as aforklift operator after high school before he enrolled in Harbor Junior Collegein Los Angeles.) The Sonics took him in the second round, and within threeyears he had led Seattle to its only NBA title and begun a run of nine straightappearances on the NBA All-Defensive Team.
The Celticsacquired him in 1983, largely because they needed someone who could stopPhiladelphia's Andrew Toney from lighting them up. In the two seasons beforeBoston got Johnson, the Celtics yielded 23.6 points per game to Toney. For thenext five years, until Toney retired, it was 15.1. DJ also memorably checkedMagic Johnson during the last four games of the 1984 NBA Finals; Boston tookthree of the four to win the series in seven games.
But Johnson wasmore than a defender. The owner of an erratic and not-at-all pretty jumper (hisdad, who taught him to shoot, was a bricklayer, both by trade and on thecourt), Johnson was nevertheless a decent scorer—until the stakes were raised.Then he became lethal. He averaged 14.1 points in the regular season, 17.3 inthe postseason. And he hit countless clutch shots, none bigger than histwisting layup in traffic with one second left to beat the Pistons in Game 5 ofthe 1987 Eastern Conference finals. That shot came off a feed from Larry Bird,who stole the inbounds pass and then found Johnson cutting to the hole—areversal of their normal roles, as it was usually Johnson who whipped a pass toBird for an easy bucket. In 1986, Bird—who played alongside Hall of Famers andDream Teamers—called Johnson "the best I've ever played with."
When he died,Johnson was the head coach of the Austin Toros of the NBDL. Said Toros ownerDavid Khan, "He was a delight to be around, with a one-of-a-kind laughthat, like him, deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame."
To the field for its first game in 11 months, the Duke lacrosse team. The BlueDevils—whose 2006 season was cut short after three players were accused ofraping an exotic dancer (the rape charges were dropped)—beat Dartmouth 17--11last Saturday in front of 6,485.
Last Saturday following a charity basketball game in his hometown of St. Louis,Broncos running back Damien Nash, 24. The cause of death has yet to bedetermined. Drafted in the fifth round out of Missouri in 2005, Nash (above)ran 18 times for 66 yards in three games last year. He helped organize thecharity game, which benefited a heart-transplant organization named after hisolder brother, Darris Nash, who had a transplant last year. "He looked ingreat shape [at the game]," said Lee Baker, a teammate of Nash's atCoffeyville (Kan.) Community College. "He had a big smile on his face. Iwant to think I'm dreaming."
At the age of 71, in a car accident outside of Waco, Texas, Oliver Tomlinson,the father of NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Oliver Tomlinson was a passenger ina pickup truck driven by LaDainian's half-brother Ronald McClain, who was alsokilled. "My father and I had a great relationship," LaDainian Tomlinsonsaid. "I am devastated by his passing."
At 71 after a long illness, Lamar Lundy, who was part of the Los Angeles Rams'Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the 1960s. The original line included (fromleft) Lundy, Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen, Roosevelt Grier and Hall of FamerDeacon Jones. Roger Brown replaced Grier in 1967, and the following season theRams held opponents to 3,118 yards in 1968, the fewest yards ever allowed in a14-game NFL season. Lundy, who retired in 1969, played his entire 13-yearcareer with the Rams. "He really was the stabilizing force," saidOlsen. "Mr. Consistency."
The hotel room and private jet of Sylvester Stallone, after a member of hisentourage was found carrying a substance believed to be human growth hormone.Stallone, 60, arrived in Australia to promote Rocky Balboa and was detained byofficials at Sydney Airport after the substance was found in the luggage of aman in his party. Authorities have not determined if charges will be filed.Stallone, who has since returned to the United States, told reporters,"This was just a misunderstanding."
By disgraced Tour de France champ Floyd Landis, more good news in his fight tohave test results that showed an elevated level of testosterone declaredinvalid. The Los Angeles Times reported that two technicians at the French labthat handled Landis's test worked on both his A and B samples—a violation ofprotocol. (A similar error in 2005 led to doping charges being dropped againsta Spanish cyclist.) Landis, who is facing hearings before antidoping agenciesin the U.S. and France, is arguing that the test result was due to errors inthe testing process. In November the same lab admitted to mislabeling Landis'sB sample but maintained that it did not affect the outcome of the test.
By 2006 World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold, 38, that he broke severalrules in the tournament last June. Gold, a TV producer who won $12 million,confessed to The New York Times that he helped a friend stay in the tournamentby telling him what cards he had. Said Gold, who plans to play in the 2007Series, "People are just going to have to trust me." A spokesman forthe WSOP, Gary Thompson, says Gold won't be punished: "It is clearly aviolation of the rules ... [but] it's over and done."
After his plane crashed into Lake Powell outside of Salt Lake City, Olympicwrestler Rulon Gardner. Gardner, 35, who took Greco-Roman gold in 2000 andbronze in '04 (left), was traveling with two friends, including the pilot. Thethree spent more than an hour swimming to shore in 44° water and spent thenight on the beach with no shelter. No one was seriously injured. This marksGardner's third life-threatening incident in five years. In 2004 he was hit bya car while riding his motorcycle. (He escaped with abrasions.) And he had atoe amputated due to frostbite after a 2002 snowmobile accident left himstranded in the Wyoming wilderness.
They Said It
MOISES ALOU, Mets' 40-year-old outfielder, on thesecret to his longevity:
"I drink light beer."
5 Overtimes played by Drexel and Northeastern in theDragons' 98--90 win last Thursday, an NCAA women's record.
2 Times 911 was called due to medical emergencies inthe crowd at the Drexel-Northeastern game.
161 Consecutive weeks Roger Federer has been ranked No.1 in the world, which breaks the record Jimmy Connors set from 1974 through'77.
3 Double-digit winning streaks by the Mavericks thisyear; Dallas previously won 12 and 13 in a row and is currently riding an11-game streak.
4 Other NBA teams that have had three winning streaksof at least 10 games in a season: the 1970--71 Bucks, '71-72 Lakers, '80--8176ers and 1999--2000 Lakers.
9 Triple doubles this year by New Jersey guard JasonKidd, tying his career high.
84 Career triple doubles for Kidd; only Oscar Robertson(181) and Magic Johnson (138) have had more.
SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE
A goalie on the USC hockey team mooned the crowd, rodehis hockey stick like a toy horse and slapped his bare buttocks because he wasupset at the officials.
STEVE LAPOFSKY BASKETBALLPHOTO.COM (JOHNSON AND BIRD)
SUPER SONIC Johnson led Seattle to theFinals in 1978 (below) and '79, when he was series MVP.
WALTER IOOSS JR. (JOHNSON)
DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES (NASH)
NFL/WIREIMAGE.COM (FEARSOME FOURSOME)
SEAN GARNSWORTHY/GETTY IMAGES (GARDNER)
TOM DIPACE (ALOU)